Tips for Taking Great Holiday Photos with Pets

Tips for Taking Great Holiday Photos with Pets

Getting your dog (and any other family pets) to sit still and look nice for a holiday photo can be a challenge. And they never end up looking like those photos in the pet calendar. Sure, you can hire a professional, but there is no reason why you can’t recreate those stunning photos yourself with just a bit of practice and these secrets from a professional photographer.

#1 – Preparation

First make sure your dog is groomed and brushed prior to the photo. If they are going to wear a collar, a new one always looks the nicest. Otherwise, at least wash their old collar. Having a hungry dog can help too. If they are hungry, most dogs will sit and look at the camera if there’s a treat in it for them. Have an active dog? These types of dogs often do better if they have a bit of exercise first, not so much that they are panting in the pictures, but enough to make it easier for them to sit still.

#2 – Perfect Background

Natural backgrounds can make lovely sceneries, and of course so does the Christmas tree or the fireplace. No matter where you shoot, keep in mind that your main subject is the pet, and shooting with a shallow depth of field will help them stand out in your image. If you really want your pet to “pop,” use a solid background like a grassed area, blank wall or hang a sheet up.

#3 – Color Coordinate

Think about what colors coordinate with your dog’s coat and make sure those are in the background, or if you are going to be in the photo, wear colors that coordinate with your dog but don’t make him blend in with you. So for example, don’t wear black pants and then have your black Miniature Schnauzer sit on your lap. Red or green pants would be more festive and will make your dog stand out without clashing.

#4 – Preventing the Blur

The hardest part of taking pictures of dogs is the movement. If you are using a camera and not a phone, make sure your shutter speed is fast to prevent the blur. With dogs that are highly active, you’ll probably need to take more photos in order to get that perfect shot.

#5 – Time of Day Tips

If you are shooting outside, pay attention to the different lights at different times of day. Different lighting will really affect how your dog looks, especially those with bright coats, such as an all white Maltese. All white dogs get washed out in bright light, an overcast day works better for them. On the other hand, avoid dark times of day if you have a dark dog.

#6 – Have Helpers

Having someone to wrangle your dog is always helpful, especially if you have more than one. That way, you can stay posed at the ready to capture the shot as soon as the other person or people get your dog(s) into position.

#7 – Pricked Ears

Be prepared to get a little silly and make some strange noises. Squeaky toys work from some dogs, though some get too excited and will want to take the toy.

#8 – Get Low

Getting low to the ground can give you some interesting angles and make the shots much more dynamic since you are at your dog’s level.

#9 – Special Tips for Black Dogs

With any black animal, overexpose the shot. This will bring out the details in the fur, and should prevent their eyes from becoming black holes. Professional photographers rarely ever use flash with pet photography, but almost always use reflectors to bounce some light onto their fur and into their eyes.

#10 – Photo Editing and Cropping

If you have any type of photo editing software on your computer, take some time to learn the basics, this can make pet photography much easier. For starters, you can keep your dog leashed and just erase the leash in editing. Cropping is available on all computers, even in Paint, and is very simple to do learn. No professional editing skills required. Cropping lets you cut out the stuff on either side of the photos so your perfect shot isn’t ruined because you didn’t notice you got the mess next to the Christmas tree in your haste to snap the perfect pic.

These tips will help you take amazing pet photos for the holidays, or any time for the year. Just remember to have fun and snap away – sometimes you get the perfect picture without even realizing it. And sometimes, the candid photos may not be what you were planning, but end up being the best ones. Finally, make sure your dog gets plenty of breaks so he has fun during the shoot too.

13 Natural Supplements for Common Ailments

13 Natural Supplements for Common Ailments

There is a lot of talk about using more natural remedies for ourselves and our pets. But you may be wondering what natural supplements are safe for dogs and what ailments do they help address? This guide is just a start – there are dozens of supplements for all kinds of ailments – but this list is a good beginner’s guide. It has many of the common supplements that help with common issues. Here are 13 supplements that can help keep your dog at his best.

#1 – Rosemary

Rosemary is a great supplement for dogs that are anxious. It’s also an antioxidant, helping remove free radicals. And, it helps prevent spasms on smooth muscles, so it can help with heart health, including dogs with cardiac arrhythmias. Finally, it’s great for the digestive system. You can see why we put it in Stay Loyal – it’s definitely a super herb. Just don’t feed your dog the concentrated oils, they are too strong and can cause seizures.

#2 – Kelp

Kelp is high in mineral and trace elements and is a good source of iodine. It helps prevent thyroid issues, cancer, and allergies. It also supports good metabolism and even treats diabetes.

#3 – Pumpkin

Pumpkin is high in soluble fiber and low in fat, making it a healthy treat for any dog. In addition, it helps with digestive issues (both diarrhea and constipation can be treated with pumpkin). It’s a great supplement for many dogs.

#4 – Garlic

Garlic does a lot of good things. Aside from being full of vitamins, calcium, inulin, and amino acids, garlic improves circulation, helps detoxify the body by breaking down wastes before they enter the bloodstream. For these reasons, we put garlic in our Stay Loyal formulas.

#5 – Ginger

Like pumpkin, ginger is good for relieving stomach upset, including motion sickness – it’s great for a car sick pup! It is also an anti-inflammatory that helps alleviate all kinds of pain, including joint.

#6 -Cloves

Cloves act as an antioxidant and anti-fungal. It is also good for the teeth and helps get rid of bacteria in the mouth.

#7 – Green Tea

As most people know, green tea is full of antioxidants as well as vitamins A, B, B5, C, D, E, H, K. It also contains important minerals including manganese, zinc, chromium and selenium. It packs a powerful punch, which is why we add it to our Stay Loyal Original formula. And, if you were looking for external uses, green tea is a safe cleaning agent for your dog’s ears and also can be used at a topical on hot spots to relieve the pain, redness and itchiness.

#8 – Peppermint

Peppermint can soothe an upset stomach. It also is very helpful with freshening up that doggy breath.

#9 – Turmeric

Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxidant. It can help prevent cancer and also alleviate pain associated with joint issues such as arthritis. That’s why we put it in our Salmon and Turkey Formula.

#10 – Apple Cider Vinegar

Like many on this list, apple cider vinegar helps with digestive issues. However, it can also be used topically as an insect repellent and to relieve aches, bruises, sunburns, bug bites, and boost coat health.

#11 – Cranberry

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, cranberry acts as an antioxidant, boosts the immune system, and promotes urinary tract and heart heath. It is a great supplement to give your dog if they have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or are prone to them.

#12 – Coconut Oil

Topically, coconut oil is amazing for keeping the skin and coat healthy. When ingested, it boosts the metabolism and immune systems and promotes heart health.

#13 – Spirulina

Spiruina is a microscopic algae that contains many nutrients and proteins, trace minerals, and fatty acids. This superfood boosts the immune system and suppresses allergies, as well as detoxes the body.

All of these supplements are easy to find online or even your local natural grocery store. If you are not sure about the amount to feed your dog, check with your vet. Serving size will depend on breed, weight, and health of your individual dog. Most of these are very safe and are hard to overdose on, but it’s always best to be sure. Also, when introducing something new to your dog’s system, don’t forget to increase the amount gradually to avoid stomach upset.

Types of Dog Collars and their Uses

Types of Dog Collars and their Uses

Just like there are a lot of leashes for you to choose from, there are also several types of dog collars. While modern marketing may make it seem like your dog’s collar is just a fashion accessory, it’s really much more than that. For starters, a collar immediately lets people know he is owned by someone should he get lost. And a tag on that collar could help him find his way home. Collars are also one of the main ways we keep our dogs close to us through the use of a leash. Each type of collar was designed for a reason and work in different ways. Here is a brief overview of the common types of collars and their uses so you can choose the one that will work best for you and your dog.

FLAT COLLARS

This is your typical collar. Usually it has a plastic or metal snap buckle, some have buckles like a belt. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “dog collar.” They have been around for ages and for many dogs, they are all that’s needed.

Pros

They lay flat against your dog’s neck and are quite comfortable for them to wear all the time, provided you don’t have it on too tight.

They come in all kinds of materials that work with different life styles, including leather for the dog that plays rough and needs something sturdy. Synthetic materials can be good for dogs that are in and out of the water or go to the beach where salt water would damage a leather collar quite quickly.

Cons

Many dogs can slip out of these collars, which can be dangerous if you are out for a walk in the neighborhood. If your dog is a constant puller, it does put pressure on your dog’s neck and throat, which can cause injury to the trachea.

There is no extra control feature in this collar, so dogs that are not trained to walk nicely on the leash can pull you down the street.

Types of dogs flat collars work well for:

If you have a well-mannered dog that doesn’t pull constantly and has a blocky head, than this type of collar is just fine. Think Labrador , Saint Bernard, Mastiffs etc. If your dog does back-out of or otherwise slip their collar, than skip this type for safety reasons.

How to Fit a Flat Collar

When fitting the collar, you should be able to put two fingers between the inside of the collar and the dog’s neck. Remember to check your growing puppy’s collar often – they can get tight quick!

MARTINGALES

If you are a horse person, the name of this collar may confuse you. Others have probably never heard this term, because they are often referred by other names as well. A martingale is a collar that has an extra loop where the leash attaches that tightens when tension is applied. These collars were created to

fix the problem of dog’s slipping out of their flat collars. Sometimes they are referred to as “no-slip collars” or “limited choke” due to this feature.

Pros

Makes it so your dog cannot slip their collar, which is very important.

Like flat collars, you can get them in leather, nylon or leather/nylon-chain combination, so you have some choice of materials.

Cons

If fitted improperly, they can work like a choke collar, so they must be fitted correctly.

Like traditional flat collars, martingales can cause damage on a dog’s trachea if they constantly pull.

On short-legged breeds or tiny puppies, the extra loop can cause a tripping hazard if their foot gets caught.

The loop is a danger for getting caught on things, so it’s not recommended that this collar be left on your dog when he is loose in your house or yard. Keep a flat collar with tags on it for yard play.

Types of dogs martingale collars work well for:

Martingales are great for bullet-headed dog breeds such as Greyhounds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Collies, Whippets, etc., that can slip flat collars. Since when it’s properly fitted it should not work like a choke collar, these collars work best on dogs that have nice leash manners.

How to Fit a Martingale Collar

As mentioned above, fit for this collar is imperative otherwise it becomes a limited choke, which is not the intended use. When the collar comes together on your dog (so pulled tight), you should be able to fit your two fingers between it and your dog’s neck, just like with the flat collar. Then test to make sure your dog can’t slip out by bringing the loop on the martingale to the top of your dog’s head, and then gently pull forward to test if your dog can back out when it’s tightened. If you can slip it over your dog’s head, tighten it a bit more and test again. It should be just tight enough to keep your dog from slipping out.

AVERSIVE/CORRECTION COLLARS

The next set of collars are all “aversive collars” – these are collars that were created to cause pain as a form of correction to train dogs. The collar becomes an aversive that your dog wants to get/stay away from by (theoretically) doing the right thing. I’m adding these types of collars because they exist and want you to know about them. We are not commenting on whether they should or should not be used.

PRONG

Prong collars, also sometimes called pinch collars, have been around a long time. The collar is made of links with “teeth-like” prongs on the inside. When the control loop is pulled, these teeth pinch your dog’s skin, causing discomfort and pain as a form of correction. Originally, these were always metal, but

they are now making them with plastic prongs, and even nylon and leather covered ones that conceal the prong collar. They are banned in Australia.

These collars are popular with correction-based dog trainers. They are often given to owners to use on dogs that are reactive, strong pullers or just generally hard to handle. However, they come with great risks.

Prong collars can damage a dog’s trachea as well as cause injury to their neck.

Types of dogs prong collars work well for:

Many will say a dog that pulls should be on a prong collar, but really, it’s just damaging their trachea. Since science has proven that positive-reinforcement techniques are more affective, there is no reason to use a prong collar.

CHOKE CHAIN COLLAR

Almost every dog owner is familiar with the choke collar. Usually made of chain (but can also be made of fabric and even leather, which are typically seen in the conformation ring), choke collars do exactly what their name implies. As soon as either end of the leash pulls, it tightens around your dog’s throat.

Again, like the prong collar, the choke collar has a lot of health hazards including trachea damage. If your dog pulls enough on a choke collar, especially a little dog, you will be facing trachea surgery, which costs thousands of dollars.

Types of dogs choke collars work well for:

If you show your dog in conformation, it should be noted that you can use a martingale collar in the ring, it doesn’t have to be a choke. Most dogs in the show ring are very well trained and never actually choke on the collar because they have been trained not to pull on the leash. This is the only type of dog that won’t be at risk of trachea damage from a choke collar – an already trained one.

ELECTRIC COLLAR

Electric or shock collars do exactly that – they shock the dog with electrical current as a severe form of correction. They are illegal in the following states: Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and New South Wales (NSW allows the use of electric collars for invisible fencing).

When deciding between a flat and martingale collar, make sure you pick the right size collar for your dog. As you probably noticed, all dog collars have the capability to cause trachea damage. For that reason, really small dogs or dogs that pull a lot, might do better with a harness (front clipping for pullers) or a head collar (Gentle Leader is the prime example). Those may save you some vet bills down the road and will actually make walking the puller easier until he has learned some manners. And of course, your dog can always have more than one collar if you just can’t decide what style, type or color you want.

Anthropomorphism – What is it and How it Causes Problems for Dog Owners

Anthropomorphism – What is it and How it Causes Problems for Dog Owners

Do you have dogs instead of kids? Do you consider yourself a pet parent? While these terms are cute and really do not do any harm – the mentality behind them may be the reason why you and your dog don’t have the relationship you want.

A growing trend in society is to equate dogs to humans, specifically kids. And this is where anthropomorphism comes in. What is that big word? It simple means to give human traits – including behaviors, motivations, emotions, characteristics – to non-human objects, animals or even natural phenomena (“The sky is angry,” says the little girl as lightening crashes down).

Anthropomorphism is a totally natural thing humans do to help us understand things that are different from us and we use it as a way to describe things. The little girl above is just trying to understand what lightning and thunder is all about. Some of us see a splattered painting and the colors on it may induce comments such as, “It looks sad (blues), or angry/passionate/in love (reds).”

But there is a problem when we do this with other living beings. Those living beings actually do have their own set of characteristics and behaviors and they are not the same as ours. To project upon them our own emotions and motivations can have tragic consequences.

“The dog was smiling, I thought it was happy,” says the woman just before she gets bit. The problem is, dogs don’t smile. They do have a submission grin and an aggressive grin (snarl) that can be hard to distinguish between. Or the dog’s mouth may have been open because it was stress panting or about to stress yawn.

Another disservice we do our canine companions is giving them our emotions. Rampant on social media is the “guilty” dog. “My dog knows what he did – look how guilty is.” However, scientific studies have proven dogs don’t feel guilt.

That look many humans describe as “guilt” is actually your dog being stressed (compare the “guilty dog look” with signs of stress in dogs) or even fearful because track record tells them that when you raise your voice, or come at them hastily, a correction is coming. Your dog can read your mood as soon as you step into the house – too bad we can’t do the same for them.

Another injustice is people teasing or scaring their dogs because we think it’s funny. The problem is, dogs don’t understand humor (they don’t laugh) or that you were “just joking” when you scared her so badly she practically jumped out of her skin.

How does all this affect dogs? Scientists believe anthropomorphism is one of the causes of bad behavior. A study by Topal, Miklosi, and Csanyi showed that owners who anthropomorphize have dogs that are more dependent (including separation anxiety) and have decreased problem solving abilities.

How to Live Better with Your Dog

The best way to live a peaceful existence with your dog, where you are both happy in your relationship, is to treat your dog like a dog. Learn what science has taught us about canine body language and then use this to assess your dog’s actions. And please, if you are using Google, make sure the information you are reading comes from a reliable study or expert in the subject area – not someone who just loves their dog a lot and thinks they know what their dog is thinking.

What Science Has Told Us About Dogs:

They like routine and structure. This means keeping the rules the same (don’t allow them on the couch one week and then scold them the next week when they jump up), stick with a training method and make sure everyone in the house follows the rules.

They do feel pain, love, fear, anger, anxiety and stress. BUT they don’t show it in the same way we do. Learn THEIR signs, don’t assess your dog based on how we humans display these emotions.

Dogs are opportunist. Scientists and behaviorists have learned that dogs are opportunists, meaning they do what works to get them what they want. Dog owners witness this with things like counter surfing. Dog gets on counter once, is rewarded with food, and then does the behavior more and more. This is why positive reinforcement training works. It works with a dog’s natural motivations. Humans work in the same way, technically. But the difference is WHAT we will work for. Your dog doesn’t care in the slightest about sitting and heeling for a blue ribbon or points. And it’s not likely that your dog sits on the couch wondering how he can please you better and comes up with “I know, I’ll sit faster next time!” However, what we have learned is that if the dog is rewarded in a way that has value to that particular dog, he will do the behavior more often. So, if you reward your dog for sitting, he is going to sit more often. So learn what your dog likes and use it as a reward for the behaviors you like!

Just remember to stop and think before you end a sentence such as, “My dog is feeling…,” “my dog thinks…” or “my dog is acting like he’s…” Are you basing the rest of that sentence on scientific fact or are you projecting your human traits on him? You might be surprised at how much you learn about your dog if you start using canine language with him. And you will both be better off.

Is Your Grain Free Dog Food Really Grain Free?

Is Your Grain Free Dog Food Really Grain Free?

If you feed your dog grain free dog food, you may feel pretty good about yourself, thinking you are feeding him the best food available. Unfortunately, grain free dog foods are not created equally. And you should always ask, “Is my grain free dog food really grain free?” This may seem like a strange question, but the truth is, just because a dog food says it’s grain free, doesn’t mean it really is. Like with everything that has to do with dog nutrition, you really have to do your research, read the labels, and research again.

Now you are probably thinking, wait if they say it is grain free, it has to be, right? Otherwise, it’s false advertising, right? Wrong again.

If the grain is coming from a secondary source within an ingredient, they don’t have to test for it or add it to the label.

So how exactly does the grain get in the food? Through the meat. Your dog’s meat is coming from animals that are largely raised on grains. Grain is good for herbivores like cows and sheep, and for poultry such as chickens and ducks. Not so much your dog.

Look at the ingredients in your dog’s grain free dog food. Here is example of an ingredient list from another brand:

Meat (Poultry meal & meat meal, duck meal & meat meals), vegetables & vegetables meals (including potato, peas, carrots, pumpkin), potato & Tapioca starch, Tallows & oils (Poultry and Vegetable), Beet Pulp, Chicken Digest, Oil seeds (Canola & Linseed), Egg Powder, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (A, D, E, B1, B5, B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, B12) and Minerals (Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Selenium), Kelp Meal, Choline Chloride, Soy Lecithin Powder, Dried Chicory Root, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Garlic Powder, Tomato Powder, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Antioxidants.

It starts out with meat meals, and while vague you are probably thinking that’s a good thing – it’s the first ingredient. However, any time a label says “meat” or something vague such as “poultry” instead of being specific on type of animal, the meal can contain offal – parts of the animal such as organs, guts (may contain grains and chicken poo) feathers, head, feet, beak, etc. On the other hand, if the ingredients say specifically chicken meal or turkey meal, they cannot. Stay Loyal only uses chicken and turkey meal without guts, feathers, heads and feet. This ensures we are truly grain free.

So if your dog is having a reaction like he is eating grain while on a grain free food, check your dog food and treats, it may contain hidden grains.

Other Things to Remember When Shopping Grain Free

When comparing grain free dog foods, here are a few other things to watch for to ensure you really are getting quality food. After all, a food could be grain free but still low quality – it’s like eating gluten free cake. Sure, it’s free of wheat gluten, but it still has plenty of sugar, fat, and other things that aren’t the best for us humans.

Any label that just says “meat meal” (like the above label) is something to stay clear of because you never know what protein or mix of proteins your dog is getting. And, if your dog is allergic to a certain protein, the food may cause problems one month and then not the next as the proteins change, making it impossible for you to figure out the source of your dog’s discomfort.

Be sure the main protein source is meat, not vegetables. Dogs do better if the majority of the protein in their food is from meat.

Finally, don’t forget to look at the fats and oils – they should be specific fats so you know exactly what type your dog is getting. This is important for allergies, but also so that you can make sure ratios are correct, like the Omega-6 and Omega-3 ratio that should be around 5 to1.

For more information on the differences in grain free dog foods, check out this comparison article.

Are There Vaccination Alternatives For Dogs?

Are There Vaccination Alternatives For Dogs?

How often you should vaccinate your dog has become a great debate among many. Those that tend to be in the holistic or natural camp argue against over vaccinating, which some believe causes problems such as cancer (there has been some scientific evidence of this, especially in cats, but nothing concrete). Those in the medical fields understandably stick to the guidelines the vaccine companies give, which includes vaccinating every year for some and as frequently as every six months for Bordetella.

As I’ve mentioned before, frequent vaccination is really a marketing strategy by the companies that make the vaccines – after all, if every dog is only vaccinated once every 5-7 years, there is not much profit there. But yearly vaccines on millions of dogs – you don’t have to do the math to see the difference in profits there!

Here is what the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccination Task Force recommends for vaccinations:

Parvo and Distemper

Vaccinating Puppies Under 16 weeks:

Initial vaccination: Between 6-8 weeks of age.

Boosters: Two boosters should be given every 3-4 weeks before the puppy reaches 16 weeks, with the last booster given after 14 weeks to minimize risk of intervention by the mother’s antibodies.

Revaccination: Dogs in this group should receive a fourth booster no later than 1 year after the completion of the series.

Vaccinating Puppies Over 16 weeks:

One vaccine is all that is required for first “series.”

Revaccination: Dogs in this group should receive a booster every three years after that.

The Task Force Found That:

The Parvo and Distemper vaccination lasts 5 years and the Adenovirus for at least 7 years

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

It means that your dog may not even need the revaccination guidelines set forth after the initial booster. A lot of it depends on the risks that your dog is expose to. The following are dogs that will be at higher risk to contract illnesses, including Bordatella, Parainfluenza, Parvo, Distemper and Adenovirus:

· Dogs that go to public places such as dog parks

· Dogs that stay at boarding kennels

· Dogs that frequent groomers where they sit in kennels

· Dogs that go to training classes

· Dogs that show/compete at events

· Dogs with compromised immune systems

· Senior dogs

If your dog fits on or more of these, then they may need to be vaccinated more frequently to reduce risk. Many kennels or dog daycares will require your dog to stay up-to-date on these vaccines. You should be aware that most vets give Bordatella and Parainfluenza in a vaccine that also includes Parvo, Distemper and Andiovirus (called a C5). Be aware of this if you are just looking for a Bordatella booster to go a kennel, you may be inadvertently over-vaccinating your dog, especially if your dog just had a C3 (the vaccine containing Parvo, Distemper and Andiovirus).

Titers: An Alternative to Vaccines

However, even at places that require vaccines, there is an alternative. A Titer is a test your vet can do to check the level of antibodies to disease in your dog’s blood. As long as they have the right levels, they do not need to be vaccinated. Titers are a great way to make sure you are not over-vaccinating your dog while providing peace of mind that they are protected from viruses. And, most kennels will take the titer test results in lieu of vaccines. (Be sure to check with them first, as each place has their own rules).

You can also help mitigate risk by bringing your own water and bowls to public places you take your dog. Pay attention to local news and ask your vet if there are any outbreaks of illnesses that you should be aware of. If there are, keep your dog home for a few weeks if you are worried they may be susceptible.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours on how often you vaccinate your dog. The best you can do is weigh your risks, talk to your vet, and make an informed decision.